True Blood imagines an America where vampires have come out of the casket. Synthetic blood allows them to satisfy their cravings without draining humans, so they're now accepted, if not quite welcomed, as citizens (it's hard to retire the stereotypes that come of being undead and into leather). Blood is about how this all shakes out in a Louisiana town, home of waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie is telepathic, cursed to hear everyone's thoughts as she brings them their burgers. She also has a crush on a local vampire (Stephen Moyer) who fought in the Civil War. Anna Paquin plays Sookie with girlish, unwavering sincerity. Her refreshingly direct, simple performance lights up this nutty, boggy production, strewn with murders and moments of kinky vampire lust. Without her, it might seem like the hell spawn of Anne Rice and Dexter.